According to the Giles article titled “Internet encyclopedias go head to head” there are now over 4 million entries on Wikipedia making it one of the most used online resources for information. This has happened for multiple reasons. One being its simplicity to find. Often when searching Google, a Wikipedia result displays at the top of the page. Also when looking for quick information, Wikipedia is one of the easiest sites around. It displays all the important information on a nice organized page; why wouldn’t people use it? However Just because of its popularity does this make Wikipedia reliable? Unfortunately it does not, and much of the information posted online is biased or grounded in opinion, not facts.
When looking at the Wikipedia page titled: Child Obesity, and considering Jensons article titled “Military History on the Electronic Frontier:Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812” we can see how Wikipedia really does lack authority as Jenson mentions. As with most topics there is a wide range of different views and opinions, thus deciding what belongs on a Wikipedia page and what doesn’t can be challenging. Although Wikipedia has written rules which outline the type of information that is allowed to be posted on pages, these rules are unknown to most and loosely followed as there is no authority to deter those who break the rules.
When issues and tensions arise surrounding questions, controversies or incorrect information users are left to deal with it themselves. Often the conversation results in bickering where one user states his opinion on the subject, followed by another user doing the same. This is consistent with Kapila and Royals article titled “What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information”. They argue that the information contained on Wikipedia reflects the views and interests of the people who contribute the information. This means that the majority in information contained on Wikipedia is socially constructed reflects the biases of the writer. Although this can be said for all sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, the journals provide scientific experiments or facts which support their views. Whether their views are correct or incorrect, we know the information is reliable and people are left to critically make their own decisions on if they consider it correct or not. This is opposed to Wikipedia where debating if information is credible or not is simply two people arguing their opinions, rarely backing it up with factual information.
A troubling part about reading through the negotiations between different contributors on Wikipedia was the lack of credentials or sources used. When people make suggestions on a particular post we are unaware if the contributor is someone with experience and knowledge on the subject or just someone stating their opinion or beliefs. Even if people were to share background information about their knowledge on the subject, it is impossible to know if they are being truthful or not. For example, a teenager could suggest they are a doctor in order to add credibility to their words. Once again it is impossible to monitor the identity of posters thus regardless of credentials all users carry the same merit.
Another issue that arises on Wikipedia when working to resolve questions or tensions is a lack of respect. Although most users show a level of respect even if they disagree with another users opinion, there are regular instances where there is a complete lack of respect and people are crude and vulgar to others. This diminishes the credibility of Wikipedia as the users behaving like this are also the ones contributing to Wikipedia and are responsible or the information displayed.
The article by Giles titled “Internet encyclopedias go head to head” brings up an interesting point. It talks about how Wikipedia’s structure ensures that reliability of information can never truly be possible. They are referring to the ability for anyone to edit a page at anytime. By allowing anyone to edit and change information, it is impossible guarantee the validity of the information. Although the article mentions that not all information on Wikipedia is incorrect and in fact a large portion of it is factually correct, the potential for an error to be in the information is too great to trust it as a reliable source.
Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.
Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182
Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature. 438, pp 900-901.